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Ground-attack aircraft

Ground-attack aircraft
An A-10 Thunderbolt II firing an AGM-65
NameGround-attack aircraft
CaptionAn A-10 Thunderbolt II firing an AGM-65

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Ground-attack aircraft are military aircraft with primary role of attacking targets on the ground with greater precision than bombers and prepared to face stronger low-level air defense. This class of aircraft is ideal for close air support on the battlefield, but they are also employed in other missions, for example air interdiction or offensive counter air.

A more general category is an attack aircraft which, in addition to ground-attack types, includes aircraft for naval air-to-surface missions. To clarify a common mistake: as opposed to fighter aircraft, attack aircraft are not necessarily intended for air-to-air combat. However, they are often equipped with air-to-air missiles for self-defense.

Until the precision-guided munitions became standard in 1960s, the term "attack aircraft" implied a heavily armored aircraft armed with both bombs and with forward-firing automatic weapon—the former were more powerful, but the latter enabled strafing attacks of much higher precision. Many fighter-bombers of the era fell into this category naturally, if sufficiently armored.

Nowadays, aircraft types built specifically for attack role include principally attack helicopters. Considering airplanes, few such specialized designs are employed - notable examples are the American A-10 Thunderbolt II or the Russian Sukhoi Su-25 Frogfoot - as air forces tend to assign the task to the ubiquitous multirole combat aircraft (sometimes described also as strike fighters).

A variety of light attack aircraft exist, usually based on adapted trainers or other light aircraft.

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